Hyundai i30 2021 elite, Toyota Corolla 2021 sx

Spec shootout: 2021 Hyundai i30 Elite sedan v Toyota Corolla SX sedan

Little sedans that are big on spec battle it out

The world of the humble small sedan has become a little more broad-ranging of late.

Traditional three-box small cars have grown, and buyers have moved away from medium sedans, thus somehow creating a new, melded category.

Hatch versus sedan arguments have raged for decades, but there’s no denying the neat and almost elegant lines of the saloon option, particularly as manufacturers have turned to designs that inject a level of style and intrigue into the segment.

So here, we take arguably one of the more intriguing newcomers, the recently re-named 2021 Hyundai i30 Elite sedan and run it against the perennial favourite, the 2021 Toyota Corolla SX, to investigate how these two booted machines stack up on paper.


Price and specification

Priced from $30,790 (before options and on-road costs) as an Elite, petrol, automatic; the artist formally known as Elantra certainly tries to stand out from the crowd.

An aggressive, low front end, plenty of angled surfaces that taper into a fastback rear, with an integrated full-width LED light strip – the i30 sedan looks suitably different from its hatchback counterpart.

The new i30 range starts at $24,790 (Active, manual, petrol) and climbs to $37,290 (N-Line Premium, automatic, turbo petrol), which places our 2021 Hyundai i30 Elite sedan right in the middle.

For your spend you receive 17-inch alloy wheels, a chrome-accented grille and a choice of six colours (black, blue, grey, red, silver and white) with premium (non-white) paints attracting a $495 premium.

Open the door (keyless entry is standard) and you’ll see leather-accented seats, a 10.25-inch colour touch screen and digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control and push-button start.

Our 2021 Toyota Corolla SX petrol, automatic is priced from $28,795 (before options and on-road costs), which is a $1995 saving on the Hyundai.

Much more similar to its’s hatch sibling, the Corolla represents Toyota’s recent progressive design direction and offers a sleek and modern profile, albeit in a slightly more conservative way.

2021 Hyundai i30 Elite sedan2021 Toyota Corolla SX sedan
Price (MSRP)$30,790$28,795
Premium paint cost$495$500
Warranty5 years / unlimited km5 years / unlimited km
Servicing cost (3-years / 5-years)$897 / $1495$540 / $900
ANCAP Safety Ratingnot yet tested5-star (2018)

The SX sedan is curiously less well-specified than the Corolla SX hatch, but is $4900 more than the $23,895 entry-level variant (Ascent Sport, manual, petrol) and is offered in a hybrid variant for $2000 extra. Stepping up to the range-topping Corolla ZR sedan ($34,195) is a $5400 proposition, but in as a cross-shop to the Hyundai, the ZR is a $3405 move up.

Featuring 16-inch alloy wheels and a choice of nine colours (black, light or dark blue, grey, a deep or bright red, silver, pearl or flat white), the Corolla asks $500 extra for metallic or pearlescent finishes (again, anything other than white).

Inside are cloth seats, automatic single-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, wireless phone charging and integrated satellite navigation on the 8.0-inch colour touch screen.

On the face of it, the Hyundai has the upper hand, despite the $2000 premium. It’s a pity the specification of the Corolla SX is more closely related to the basic Ascent Sport and not the ZR, but it certainly makes a step up to the range-topper a more appealing proposition.

So in the case of value, the Hyundai takes the lead.


Engine and drivetrain

Both our cars are petrol-only variants with front-wheel drive and automatic transmissions.

Toyota deserves a callout for offering their excellent petrol-electric hybrid driveline at a $2000 premium over the regular petrol option. This is available on the Ascent Sport as well as our SX, but strangely not on the better-equipped ZR sedan.

Hyundai doesn’t yet offer a hybrid variant of the i30 sedan, with buyers needing to look across the showroom at the $35,140 Ioniq Elite Hybrid instead.

But even without electric support, or even turbocharging for that matter, both our small hatches offer efficient power and delivery.

2021 Hyundai i30 Elite sedan2021 Toyota Corolla SX sedan
Engine format2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Displacement1999cc1987cc
Power117kW @ 6200rpm125kW @ 6600rpm
Torque191Nm @ 4500rpm200Nm @ 4400-4800rpm
Drive typeFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
Transmission6-speed automaticCVT
Weight (tare)1272kg1385kg
Power to weight ratio92 kW/t90.3 kW/t
Fuel consumption (combined)7.0L/100km6.0L/100km
Fuel tank size47-litres50-litres
CO2 emission159g/km137g/km

The Corolla features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that has 125kW and 200Nm available. Power peaks at 6600rpm where the optimal torque delivery is between 4400 and 4800rpm.

This drives the front wheels through a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) which adjusts on the fly for the most efficient operation.

Fuel use is claimed at a combined 6.0L/100km on a combined cycle, and with a 50-litre tank, the Corolla has a regular fuel range of about 830km.

The Hyundai is also running a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, but with a slightly lower output of 117kW and 191Nm. Again you need to rev things out for peak power to hit at 6200rpm, and peak torque at 4500rpm.

Fitted with a six-speed traditional automatic transmission, the i30 sedan works a little harder than the Toyota with a claimed combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.0L/100km and an expected 670km range from its 47-litre tank.

Despite being 113kg heavier (1385kg to 1272kg), the Corolla simply serves up a more responsive and efficient powertrain to take the win in this round. One all.


Space and comfort

In their role of filling the needs for both small and medium sedan buyers, both our cars offer considerable room while still only taking up a compact footprint. For a bit of nostalgic interest, the new i30 sedan is just 6cm shorter than its one-size-up sibling, the Sonata, was back in 2000.

As noted earlier, the Corolla is offered about $2000 less than the Hyundai, but behind the wheel you can really see where that extra money goes.

Leather accented seats, a 10.25-inch central display and a second 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster are just the start. Dual-zone climate control, premium-looking switchgear and a modern, coherent dashboard design make it feel like a true step above its competitor.

Not that the Corolla is bad, just that the smaller 8.0-inch infotainment screen, single-zone climate, cloth trim and slightly more hard-wearing materials do seem a bit off the pace of the Hyundai.

Both cars offer decent volume from their boots, at 474-litres in the i30 to 470-litres in the Corolla. The rear seats on each car fold 60:40 to allow for longer or more bulky items to be loaded.

2021 Hyundai i30 Elite sedan2021 Toyota Corolla SX sedan
Length4650mm4630mm
Width1825mm1780mm
Height1430mm1435mm
Wheelbase2720mm2700mm
Turning circle10.8m10.8m
Weight (tare)1272kg1385kg
Boot space474L470L

Moving forward and there is generous room in the rear of both small sedans, especially considering they are small sedans.

Our pair both include a centre arm-rest and grab handles, but the i30 offers rear vents where the Corolla does not.

There is an extra 20mm between the wheels of the Hyundai (which accounts for its 20mm overall length difference to the Toyota), and it is also 45mm wider which gives it the mathematical edge over the Corolla.

The higher quality materials, more expansive equipment list and overall more modern and up-market approach seals the deal and pops the Hyundai back into the lead.


Safety and technology

One of the best things to happen to smaller cars over the past few years has been the filtering down of advanced safety and assistance technology.

Called SmartSense on the Hyundai and Safety Sense on the Toyota, these packaged technology solutions are included on both cars and include such key features as a blind spot monitor, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, as well as a rear camera and parking sensors.

So a big tick for safety tech in both camps.

The Toyota received a 5-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2018, but the new i30 sedan hasn’t been tested yet.

Both cars have native navigation systems as well support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and both feature DAB digital radio.

That said, the larger screen (or more accurately, screens), and an 8-speaker Bose sound system do make the Hyundai feel like a more complete and upmarket proposition.

If the i30 pulls ahead on tech, and the Corolla can be better qualified on safety, that leaves this section as a draw, thus keeping the Hyundai a nose ahead.


Ownership

Five-year unlimited-kilometre warranties and 12-month service intervals keep the baseline ownership argument line ball between the two cars.

But with each service for the first 5-years coming in at just $180 per visit, the Corolla is much less expensive to keep on the road ($540 for 3-years, $900 for 5-years). The Hyundai isn’t over the top in any way ($897 for 3-years and $1495 for 5-years), but the Toyota is hard to beat here.

It's even-stevens again.


Verdict

Bottom line, these are both well-sorted examples of how a small-to-medium sedan makes a lot of sense in terms of value and practicality.

They each shine in particular areas, the Corolla offering a better drivetrain and more value-oriented ownership, where the i30 is a more modern, stylish and well-equipped runner. In a way, it's a case of heart over head, with the new Hyundai i30 sedan being a more emotional choice and the Toyota Corolla a more sensible one.

Neither feels like a bad option, but for mine, the more impressive interior and modern design of the Hyundai gives it the final nod.


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